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A father, who has narcissistic personality disorder, berates his daughter who sits quietly grasping her hands and looking down at a table.

10 Symptoms of Daughters of Narcissistic Fathers

7 min.

Being raised by a narcissistic father may have lasting effects on your attachment style, self-esteem, mental health, and more. Keep reading to learn more.

By: Charlie Health Editorial Team

Clinically Reviewed By: Don Gasparini Ph.D., M.A., CASAC

September 3, 2023


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Table of Contents

10 symptoms of daughters of narcissistic fathers

A father who is self-obsessed or needs constant attention may be described as “narcissistic” or a “narcissist,” but narcissistic fathers are actually fathers who display traits of or have been diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder. Daughters of narcissistic fathers often experience a range of emotional and psychological challenges as a result of the narcissism in their upbringing, including challenges with self-esteem and mental health. While not all daughters of narcissistic parents will exhibit the same symptoms, here are 10 common symptoms that daughters of narcissistic fathers may experience:

1. Low self-esteem

Constant criticism and manipulation from a narcissistic father can lead to a diminished sense of self-worth and confidence in these daughters.

2. Seeking approval

Daughters might develop a strong need for external validation due to never feeling good enough in their father’s eyes.

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3. Perfectionism

The pressure to meet unrealistic expectations set by their father can lead to perfectionistic tendencies and fear of making mistakes.

4. Difficulty setting boundaries

Growing up with a father who is a narcissist can make it challenging for these daughters to establish healthy boundaries in relationships, as they may have been taught that their needs and boundaries aren’t important as a child.

5. Insecurity

Constant criticism and emotional manipulation can lead to a deep-seated sense of insecurity and doubt in their own abilities and decisions.

6. Emotional dysregulation

Daughters might struggle with managing their emotions due to inconsistent validation and invalidation from their father as a child, leading to mood swings and difficulty expressing feelings appropriately.

7. Fear of intimacy

Trust issues and fear of vulnerability can develop after having a parent who is dealing with narcissism, making it hard for these daughters to establish and maintain intimate relationships.

8. People-pleasing

A tendency to prioritize the needs and desires of others over their own can arise as a survival strategy to navigate the demands of their narcissistic father.

9. Difficulty expressing authenticity

Daughters might struggle to express their true selves, as they have likely learned to conform to their father’s expectations to gain his approval.

10. Self-doubt

The constant gaslighting and manipulation from a narcissistic parent, including a narcissistic father, can lead to daughters questioning their own perceptions and reality, fostering self-doubt.

Frequently asked questions about narcissistic fathers and their daughters

Q: How does having a narcissistic father affect a daughter’s mental health?

A: Daughters of narcissistic fathers often experience a range of mental health challenges due to emotional manipulation, gaslighting, and invalidation. Being a daughter raised by a  narcissistic father can lead to issues like anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and difficulties in managing emotions.

Q: What are some signs of a narcissistic father-daughter relationship?

A: Signs may include the father’s constant need for admiration, lack of empathy, manipulation, and the daughter’s feelings of inadequacy, seeking validation, and inability to set boundaries.

Q: How can daughters of narcissistic fathers develop healthy boundaries?

A: Establishing healthy boundaries is crucial for mental health. It involves self-awareness, learning about boundaries, identifying personal limits, practicing self-care, seeking therapy, and gradually asserting boundaries with their father.

Q: Can a narcissistic father’s behavior lead to NPD in their daughters?

A: In short, not necessarily. While exposure to a father who is a narcissist can contribute to emotional struggles, it’s important to note that developing a personality disorder like narcissistic personality disorder is complex and influenced by multiple factors, including genetics and other life experiences.

Q: What’s the connection between seeking validation and mental health for daughters of narcissistic fathers?

A: Daughters of narcissistic parents, including fathers, often seek external validation due to never feeling good enough. This seeking can impact mental health by perpetuating self-doubt, anxiety, and a reliance on others’ opinions for self-worth.

Q: Does having a narcissistic father mean you will experience narcissistic abuse?

Having a narcissistic father increases the likelihood of experiencing narcissistic abuse due to the unhealthy dynamics and manipulative behaviors often present in such relationships, but the individual experiences of daughters of narcissistic fathers can vary based on numerous factors.

The impact on daughters of narcissistic fathers

As discussed, being the daughters of a narcissistic parent—including a narcissistic father—often causes lasting emotional and psychological challenges. These include reduced self-esteem from constant criticism, a craving for external validation, difficulties in forming relationships due to trust issues and boundary struggles, perfectionism from parental pressure, insecurity from emotional manipulation, and confusion from gaslighting. Such experiences can lead to people-pleasing behaviors and self-identity suppression to seek approval. These patterns may persist in future relationships. Fortunately, healing is attainable through therapy, self-awareness, and support networks, enabling daughters to rebuild self-esteem, develop healthy relationship skills, and rediscover their true selves.

How can daughters of narcissistic fathers establish healthy boundaries?

Being the daughter of a narcissistic parent, including a narcissistic father, may pose challenges in setting healthy boundaries. However, setting healthy boundaries is an important step in daughters of narcissistic fathers reclaiming their own well-being and autonomy. Here are some strategies that may help daughters of narcissistic fathers establish healthy boundaries:

1. Self-awareness

Recognize the impact of your upbringing and the unhealthy patterns that have developed as a result of your narcissistic father. Understanding how your relationship with your father has affected your boundaries is crucial for making positive changes.

2. Identify your boundaries

Reflect on your values and limits. What behaviors, conversations, or interactions do you find uncomfortable or unacceptable? Define these boundaries clearly for yourself. It may help to start small and begin by setting boundaries in less challenging situations—for instance, saying “no” or expressing your needs in a situation where you’re in agreement with others. Understand that you have the right to your own feelings, opinions, and needs.

3. Be clear and direct

Communicate your boundaries clearly and directly without apologizing or justifying yourself. Use assertive language and maintain a calm tone. Narcissistic individuals may resist or disregard your boundaries. Stay firm and consistent in enforcing them, even if it causes discomfort or conflict. A narcissistic parent often induces guilt to manipulate. Recognize that your boundaries are for your well-being and not something to feel guilty about.

4. Practice role-playing

Enlist the help of a friend or therapist to practice boundary-setting conversations. This can help you feel more confident when facing difficult situations.

5. Limit contact

If your father constantly disrespects your boundaries, consider limiting or even cutting off contact, at least temporarily. Distance can help you gain clarity and emotional space.

6. Seek support

Connect with friends, family members, or a therapist who understands your situation and can provide emotional support and guidance.

7. Set consequences

Establish consequences for when your boundaries are violated. Communicate these consequences clearly, and be prepared to follow through if necessary.

8. Practice self-care

Prioritize self-care and self-love. Nurturing your own well-being will give you the strength and confidence to enforce boundaries. Shift your focus from seeking your father’s approval to taking care of yourself and your own needs. This shift can empower you to set and maintain boundaries.

9. Celebrate progress

Acknowledge and celebrate your successes in setting and maintaining boundaries. Each step forward is a victory.

A woman wearing a brown shirt looks into the distance as her father, who stands in the background in a green shirt and has narcissistic personality disorder, tries to use manipulation tactics to get her to do something he wants.

How can daughters heal from the damage of narcissistic fathers?

Recovering from the harm caused by a narcissistic father is a process that requires time, self-compassion, and dedication. Daughters can start to heal the damage of narcissistic fathers by acknowledging the impact of the past—it’s crucial to recognize that the behaviors and beliefs stemming from your father during your upbringing might not serve your well-being. Self-awareness is also key; identify negative thought patterns and behaviors that were instilled by your narcissistic parent and work on challenging and reframing them. Seeking therapy or counseling can provide a safe space to process emotions, gain insights, and develop coping strategies. 

Cultivating self-compassion is vital as you learn to forgive yourself for any internalized guilt or inadequacy. Surround yourself with a support network of friends, family, or support groups who understand your experiences and can provide empathy and encouragement. 

Practice self-care, focusing on activities that nourish your emotional, mental, and physical health. Engage in activities that help you rediscover your authentic self and build your self-esteem. As you progress, set and enforce boundaries to protect your well-being, and don’t hesitate to limit contact with your narcissistic father as necessary. 

Remember that healing is a nonlinear process; there may be setbacks, but with patience and commitment, you can reclaim your sense of self, rebuild your emotional resilience, and foster healthier relationships moving forward.

Healing from the trauma of a narcissistic father with Charlie Health

Are you the daughter of a narcissistic father looking to process your trauma, heal, and grow? If so, Charlie Health is here to help.

Our personalized, virtual Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) combines group sessions with individual and family therapy for teens, young adults, and families dealing with various serious mental health struggles, including trauma and narcissistic abuse. In this program, you will be matched with a trauma-informed therapist who meets your needs. You will also be matched with a personalized group and get the chance to connect with peers who face similar struggles.

Coping with trauma isn’t always easy –– but with trauma-informed care and a supportive community, you can heal from emotional trauma and even grow from it. Help is here now. Fill out this short form to get started on your healing journey today.

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